What is a Medevac Flight?


The term Medevac is short for "medical evacuation", which refers to the evacuation of persons by air transportation to a place where they can receive medical care.

These flights are typically used to transport patients from rural or remote areas to major metropolitan hospitals where they can receive more advanced treatment. Medevac flights are also commonly known as air ambulance flights.

Aviation plays a crucial role in medical evacuation and transportation, and the use of medevac flights has saved countless lives.

Why would you need a medevac flight?

Typically, when a patient needs to be transferred to another location for medical reasons, there are two different methods of transportation available. The first is ground ambulance transportation, which often involves an ambulance or other vehicle driving the patient to their destination. While this method is usually preferred in certain situations, it can sometimes take hours before the patient arrives at their destination and receives the urgent care he or she needs.

Medevac flights are faster, more reliable, and overall more efficient, especially on larger distances. This can be crucial in certain cases, as fast transportation can be the difference between life and death.

Also, when an accident occurs in a very remote location, like in the mountains, land transport is simply not an option, and only a medevac flight can bring the necessary medical attention to the patient in time. In the case of a ski accident high up in the mountains, the only way to get the patient out would be via helicopter.

However, medical evacuation flights can also be used for less urgent situations, such as an elderly person who requires critical medical treatment that is only available in another city or country.

Which aircraft are used for medevac?

There is a wide range of different aircraft used for medevac flights, including helicopters and airplanes. These can vary based on what kinds of conditions they are best suited for.

Fixed-wing air ambulance operators mostly use turboprops or small private jets, like a Pilatus PC-12 or Learjet. These aircraft are equipped with the latest medical equipment and can safely transport patients to their destination.

Aircraft such as the PC-12 and Pilatus PC-24 are especially well-suited due to their ability to operate in and out of short airfields, and because of their large cargo door, which makes it easy to load a stretcher in and out of the aircraft.

As mentioned above, helicopters are also widely used when it comes to medevac services. They are particularly useful in mountainous or very remote areas, where ground transportation is often not an option. In these situations, helicopters replace the need for a land ambulance, and bring the patient to the hospital faster than any other medical transportation option.

When a suitable hospital is not available in the area, airplane medevac flights can be used to transport patients to larger and better-equipped hospitals in other cities, states or even countries. This way, both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft may be used in a patient's medical evacuation.

In general, medevac airplanes are used to transport patients over longer distances, thanks to their speed, while helicopters are more versatile and can be used in a wider range of situations, including search-and-rescue missions.

How much does a medevac flight cost?

The cost of a medevac flight can vary, depending on several different factors. For instance, larger aircraft are more expensive to operate than smaller ones, and the cost of running a medevac flight also goes up depending on the distance being traveled.

Since medical helicopter flights often operate under extreme conditions, such as in very remote areas or bad weather, this can significantly impact their cost as well.

Some other factors that may determine the cost of a medevac flight:

  • Any additional ground ambulance transport needed;
  • The number of patients that need to be transported, and people accompanying them;
  • Departure and destination locations;
  • The type of airplane or helicopter required;
  • The number of medical staff required on board;
  • Possible airport landing fees and taxes.

In general, air ambulance flights are usually (partly) covered by your insurance policy, which means that you usually won't have to pay the full cost of the medevac flight. However, this varies from case to case, so it's always best to contact your insurer as soon as possible when making arrangements for your air medical transport.

How fast can a medevac flight be arranged?

Medical evacuation flights can be organized very quickly, especially when you are dealing with an emergency condition. This means that in most cases, medevac helicopters can be on their way within minutes after receiving the call.

A fixed-wing medevac flight usually takes more time to plan and coordinate, as these are often international flights or to/from a larger airport. However, even these flights can usually be in the air within 30 minutes when they are organized in a true, time-sensitive emergency.

In most locations around the world, there are specialized air ambulances with medical crews standing by 24/7 to respond to emergency calls as quickly as possible.

The importance of medevac flights during COVID-19

One way the aviation industry has offered tremendous value during the COVID-19 pandemic was by providing medical evacuation flights to those in need. This way, patients could be flown home to their families, and it released pressure from certain hospitals that were being overwhelmed by a huge number of patients.

Because of the infectiousness of certain diseases, like COVID, medevac aircraft can also be equipped with isolation chambers. This allows medical staff to provide excellent care in a safe environment throughout the transport of a patient.

Some final words

Aviation plays a crucial role in medical evacuation and transportation. Whether it's transporting an elderly person who requires critical medical treatment to another city or country, or rescuing a mountain climber with a medevac helicopter, air transport is often the fastest, safest and most efficient way to get patients where they need to go.

In addition, thanks to modern airplanes, patients can be transported in comfort and with the latest medical equipment over longer distances. With specialized air ambulances and crew standing by 24/7 around the world, medevac flights are now organized quicker than ever before, saving countless lives every year.

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